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COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE
(1788-1856). Mathematicians usually refer to the philosopher
as the other Hamilton. After a somewhat unsuccessful career as
a Scotch barrister and candidate for official university positions
the eloquent philosopher finally became Professor of Logic and
Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh. The mathematical
Hamilton, as we have seen, was one of the outstanding original
mathematicians of the nineteenth century. This is perhaps
unfortunate for the other Hamilton, as the latter had no earthly
use for mathematics, and hasty readers sometimes confuse the
two famous Sir Williams. This causes the other one to turn and
shiver in his grave.
Now, if there is anything more obtuse mathematically than a
thick-headed Scotch metaphysician it is probably a mathema-
tically thicker-headed German metaphysician. To surpass the
ludicrous absurdity of some of the things the Scotch Hamilton
said about mathematics we have to turn to what Hegel said
about astronomy or Lotze about non-Euclidean geometry.
Any depraved reader who wishes to fuddle himself can easily
run down all he needs. It was the metaphysician Hamilton's
misfortune to have been too dense or too lazy to get more than
the most trivial smattering of elementary mathematics at
schools but 'omniscience was his foible's and when he began
lecturing and writing on philosophy, he felt constrained to tell
the world exactly how worthless mathematics is.
Hamilton's attack on mathematics is probably the most
famous of all the many savage assaults mathematics has sur-
vived, undented. Less than ten years ago lengthy extracts from
Hamilton's diatribe were vigorously applauded when a pedago-
gical enthusiast retailed them at a largely attended meeting of
America's National Educational Association. Instead of
applauding, the auditors might have got more out of the
exhibition if they had paused to swallow some of Hamilton's
philosophy as a sort of compulsory sauce for the proper enjoy-
ment of his mathematical herring. To be fair to him we shall
pass on a few of his hottest shots and let the reader make what
use of them he pleases.
'Mathematics [Hamilton always used 'mathematics* as a
plural, not a singular, as customary to-day] freeze and parch
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